home books etc visits about contact EDITING SERVICES blog


SCBWI Summer Reading List 2016 now available!

Hey, everyone!

It’s almost summer, so it’s time to get your reading list pile started. Here to help is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and their summer reading list! It’s compiled by geographic region, so if you want to know what’s being published in your neck of the woods, use the Table of Contents to direct you to the right page. Or just thumb through the entire list for great books for babies through young adults. And most of all, enjoy your summer reads!

P.S. My book, THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLED, (Simon & Schuster) is on page 46. 🙂



Speak up:



, ,

Critique Across Missouri

Hey, everyone,

Last week I had the opportunity to host four other picture book writers in my home to talk picture books. What fun!

We discussed characterization, pacing, story problems, illustration, the rule of three, emotional resonance, and lots more. We critiqued one another’s work and even heard a couple of original songs by one of the attendees.

The event was called Critique Across Missouri, and it was organized by Kim Piddington, Missouri’s RA for SCBWI. Several groups held similar sessions all over the state.

Thanks, Kim, for getting us started, and thanks to those of you who sat around my kitchen table last Wednesday morning!

Sue Gallion, Ann Ingalls, Shelly Long, Luanne Marten

Speak up:



, , ,

Tasty News

Happy Monday, All!

We’re experiencing the sun before the snow today in Missouri. It’s a gorgeous 65 degrees right now. But by 7:00 pm tonight, the temperature is supposed to drop almost 40 degrees, with a slight chance of snow. Ouch. I keep telling myself I love the four seasons. I love the four seasons.

On Saturday I was lucky enough to attend the Kansas SCBWI conference, and boy, was it awesome! Speakers and faculty included author Sharon Draper, agents Karen Grencik, Jen Mattson, and Heather Alexander, and editor Brett Wright from Bloomsbury.

While I couldn’t attend every breakout session, I did learn a ton from the ones I sat in on. Heather gave us great advice about improving our voice, and Karen used actual letters from editors (anonymously, of course) to discuss why manuscripts get rejected and how ours can avoid the same fate. Sharon inspired us with tales of her journey as an author and encouraged us to write what we know. And the five lines panel was sooooo interesting. It was fun to see the agents’ and editor’s takes on the first five lines of blind submissions. [I squee’d silently when they read and liked mine!]

Two of the best parts of the conference? Videos by Sharon and Karen featuring “Rise” by Shawn McDonald and “Words” by Hawk Nelson.

Thanks to Sue Gallion, my buddy, crit partner, and RA for the KS SCBWI chapter, for organizing such a great event!

In other news, if you’re near a current [December 2014] Highlights magazine, please flip to page 30 and read my rebus, “My Tasty Snowman.”

Hmm. You don’t think I brought on this cold snap, do you?

All the best,


Speak up:



, , , , , , , , , , ,

How To Write A Rebus

Earlier this year, the SCBWI Regional Advisor for Missouri, Sue Bradford Edwards, asked if I’d write an article for the region’s newsletter on how to write a rebus.  I’d recently had three accepted for publication by Clubhouse Jr..  I was happy to. 

Don’t know what a rebus is?  Then this is the perfect time to learn!  Here’s a link to the region’s website and newsletter. 



Speak up:



, , ,

Santa Came Early

In the form of a poem acceptance from the SCBWI Bulletin!

Thank you, Santa, I mean Steve.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.


Speak up:



, , ,

The SCBWI Bulletin

My latest poem is in the November/December issue! Thanks, Steve and Lin.



Speak up:



, ,

SCBWI Bulletin

Woo hoo! The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is going to publish another poem of mine! This one’s called “The School Visit Dream.” I’ll let you know in which issue it’ll appear when I find out.

Thanks, Steve and SCBWI!

Speak up:



, , ,


One of my favorite days of the year is right around the corner. Earth Day, April 22nd, is designed to heighten awareness of and appreciation for the Earth. What better way to do that than with a picture book about an oak tree? Critique partner and friend Alison Formento is the author of THIS TREE COUNTS! (Albert Whitman & Company, March 1, 2010), a part-counting, part-environmental awareness book with lovely language and illustrations.

Alison has agreed to stop by and answer some questions for us, on this the first stop of a blog tour.

JJS: Hi, Alison! How did THIS TREE COUNTS! go from idea to published book? Tell us about the path it took.

AF: Inspired by a large, old Oak tree, I wrote a simple ten line poem about ten animals in a giant tree telling its story, which sat unfinished in my computer files. A few months later, I saw an editor from Albert Whitman & Company speak on a panel at an SCBWI conference. After the conference, I submitted a story to her, which she rejected, but invited me to send something else, which I did. That story too, got a personal rejection and a note to send something for the very young, perhaps with a counting theme. I remembered my tree poem and worked on shaping it into story form, adding the children and teacher to hear the tree’s story, and how it encourages them to plant more trees. After I ran that early version through my critique group, I submitted it to the editor and four months later, received an offer. In my case, third time was the charm. The revision process was smooth, as my editor really saw the story the same way I did, as did the illustrator, Sarah Snow. We actually expanded the story, to add a few more kids and more about how trees count to our world. A year later, THIS TREE COUNTS! is out and I couldn’t be happier with the final product.

JJS: How long have you been writing for children?

AF: If you count my diary entries and the poems and stories I wrote as a child, then I’ve been writing for children a long time. As a freelance writer with credits in The New York Times, The Writer, Parenting and several other publications, I was first intrigued with writing non-fiction for children, and there are several factual elements to THIS TREE COUNTS! As common with many children’s book authors, when I read books to my kids, it inspired me to write my own stories. I joined the SCBWI about six years ago, attended several conferences, found compatible critique partners and have fully embraced the rewarding, and often arduous, journey as writer for children.

JJS: What’s the most rewarding part of being a published children’s author so far? What’s the most surprising part?

AF: I’ve just began sharing my book at libraries, schools and bookstores, but it’s exactly what I’d heard from other published children’s authors—Kids reactions to you and your story are the biggest rewards of all. Kids today are “greener” than ever, thanks to schools becoming more environmentally conscious, and they really enjoy telling me their favorite trees and how we use trees in our lives.

The surprising part about being a published author is how I’m able to promote my book much more than I thought I could handle. I feel fairly shy, but I’m so proud of the way my book has turned out, that it’s exciting to share it any way possible. And meeting so many wonderful kids, librarians and teachers so far has already sparked a lot of great ideas for new stories.

JJS: Thanks, Alison! I wish you much success with your book.

Readers, Alison is having a contest on her blog. Win her book and help her plant 40 trees to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Just enter your favorite tree for a chance to win. http://alisonashleyformento.blogspot.com/

Or visit Alison’s website: http://www.alisonashleyformento.com/. A portion of all proceeds of her book will go to AmericanForest.org to help plant more trees.

Learn more about Alison and THIS TREE COUNTS! Tuesday as this blog tour continues at http://rachelwrites4kids.blogspot.com/ and Wednesday at http://anom3.livejournal.com/.

Congrats, Alison! All the best!

Speak up:



, , , , , , , ,

Debut Picture Book Author, Judith Snyder

Well, it has happened again! Another of my critique buddies has published her first children’s picture book. Amazon describes Judith Snyder’s What Do You See? (Odyssey Books) this way:

“This title is full of imaginative approaches to artwork, and perfect for curious children, who are eager to combine shapes and sizes in art. There is no end to the creativity this book facilitates, as youngsters open their eyes and the windows of their own creativity. It is a perfect way for adults and youngsters to see the world in a whole new way.”

Judith has joined us today to talk about her book. Thanks for stopping by, Judith. Let’s start at the beginning.

How did you get your idea for this book?

When I first started teaching, back in the golden years when creative thinking took precedence over skill and drill worksheets, I participated in classes that encouraged teachers to get students to stretch their imaginations. That was when I started using simple line drawings to stimulate creative thinking. I started this activity with fifth graders and when I changed grade levels, I discovered that first and second graders could do these activities as well. So that was the initial idea that followed me into all my classrooms. Many years later on a car trip, I used this activity to entertain my grandson. Everyone in the car had fun brainstorming ideas for different shapes. I saved the doodles and the ideas, and combined them with rhyming couplets and voila—What Do You See?

[It pays to save those scraps of ideas!]

How did you find your editor, or how did she find you?

At my second SCBWI conference in 2006, I had the good fortune to be with a friend who won the chance to sit next to one of the guest editors at lunch. So, along with nine other conference goers, we had a wonderful chat with editor/publisher, Barbara Cilette of Odyssey Books. We all talked about the normal publishing questions, but what I remember most is discussing educational philosophy and how books should stimulate creativity and curiosity. This discussion was a great segue into my What Do You See? book proposal that I had been subbing with no success, so I asked Barbara about the best way to get my vision across to an editor. As a result, I mailed her the manuscript. I remember the wait felt like forever. When Barbara responded initially, it was a “Yes, I like your idea very much, but I can’t promise you anything just yet.”

So I waited a little longer…and I was thrilled when she invited me to lunch to discuss this manuscript and several others she was interested in. (The time from initial query to final book was about three years, which I understand now is common.) And then my books arrived at my door and I discovered it was worth the wait. They are beautiful.

[Amazon tells me my copy is on its way to Missouri. I can’t wait to read it!]

It sounds like you thought long and hard about how to make your proposal different from what was already on the market. Tell us about that.

This is a very important piece in getting noticed, and something that I consider as I develop my projects. My first magazine piece was an article and a folktale I sent out as a package, with the suggestion that they could be used together or individually. The article described how to tell a story and used examples from the folktale. It worked. They bought both.

With my Jump Start Your Library activity books, I stressed a hands-on approach, as opposed to simple worksheets, and proposed that the activities be pre-made to save librarians work.

Suggesting ideas outside-the-box can start the editor thinking, too. The concept for What Do You See? is so different from most other things on the market right now, that it was very difficult to market. Luckily, I found an editor with a vision and understanding of the creative process. This book goes far beyond a simple shape book to develop flexible and creative thinking. Preschoolers might enjoy it by finding shapes, but older students and adults are challenged with more abstract thinking.

Now that your book is out, how do you intend to promote it?

Thank goodness I have critique groups and Verla Kay’s message board. I’ve received support to motivate me into cyberspace (my website) and ideas to get me out into the other real world. Since I am a retired school librarian, I still have a few contacts in several metro area school districts to do some author presentations. I’m getting a slow start, but I wanted to make sure I would have my books before I did any presentations. I also think I’m very lucky to be a part of Odyssey Books first book launch. Though Barbara Ciletti has been in the publishing business for a long time, Odyssey Books is her very own imprint. And not only is she well versed in marketing strategies, she is as motivated as I am to get these books into the hands of children. We both are working hard for success.

Also, I am holding a contest on my website, judithsnyderwrites.com. You can win my book by answering a creative thinking question. I’ll put all the responders’ names into a hat and draw a winner. Stop by and check it out. The contest runs through Nov. 30, 2009.

What’s next for you?

I love picture books and that’s what I enjoy writing because that’s what I know best. But there is something niggling at me to take a risk and try a different kind of writing. So I’m starting to learn about writing chapter books and a middle grade realistic fantasy novel. I’ve had a few false starts, but I’m gearing up again.

Finally, what’s the best advice you’ve been given about writing?

I’ve received lots of great insights into the writing process from my critique groups and at conferences. But I have to go back to the very beginning of my journey, when I was just getting my feet wet and stretching my writing wings. Because I was a school librarian, I had opportunities to invite authors to my school and spend time with them at lunch and throughout the day. I remember asking the authors, Janet Stevens and Justin Mattott, how to get started on the “publishing a picture book” journey. Both replied with similar answers. Join SCBWI, go to conferences, get into a critique group, and write what you know. I followed their advice and it worked. And that’s the advice I would give to any other novice writer—that, and grow a thick skin because you’ll get a lot of rejections before you get that wonderful “YES!”

Thanks for your time, Judith. I wish you all the best with What Do You See?

Speak up:



, , , , , , ,

SCBWI, Weasels, and Winter

Some great things have happened lately in my little corner of the writing world.

First, I attended the very well-organized and upbeat Kansas SCBWI Regional Conference two weekends ago. Fabulous. Eve Adler, Henry Holt, Ruta Rimas, Balzer + Bray, and Ted Malawer, Upstart Crow, all inspired the crowd.

Second, my poem “A Scrumptious Read” was published in the September/October issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. Woo hoo! And guess who illustrated my little ditty? None other than Elizabeth Dulemba. Seriously cool.

Third, I have been re-researching an obscure fact about a certain member of the Mustelidae family–okay, weasels–and in doing so have contacted experts from

North Carolina
New Zealand
New York

and they have been SO nice and helpful. Thanks to all who received and responded to my endless questions. You knows who you ares.

Fourth, I fell in love with another picture book, Waiting for Winter, by Sebastian Meschenmoser. It’s everything a PB should be. The illustrations are superb.


Cheers, from my corner to yours!

Speak up:



, , , , , , , , , ,
home books etc visits about contact News blog